Dada is the sun, Dada is the egg. Dada is the Police of the Police.

7/30/2005

Conservative Comix



This is a rad new comic that I found out about via The Lion and The Donkey. Synopsis:
America’s future has become an Orwellian nightmare of ultra-liberalism. Beginning with the Gore Presidency, the government has become increasingly dominated by liberal extremists.

In 2004, Muslim terrorists stopped viewing the weakened American government as a threat; instead they set their sites on their true enemies, vocal American conservatives. On one dark day, in 2006, many conservative voices went forever silent at the hands of terrorist assassins. Those which survived joined forces and formed a powerful covert conservative organization called “The Freedom of Information League”, aka F.O.I.L.

The efforts of F.O.I.L. threaten both the liberal extremist power structure and the U.N.’s grip on America, the U.N. calls F.O.I.L. the most dangerous group in the world. It seems the once theorized Vast Right Wing Conspiracy has now become a reality.

The F.O.I.L. Organization is forced underground by the “Coulter Laws” of 2007; these hate speech legislations have made right-wing talk shows, and conservative-slanted media, illegal. Our weakened government has willingly handed the reigns of our once great country to the corrupt United Nations ...

Rupert Murdoch’s decision to defy the “Coulter Laws” hate speech legislations, has bankrupted News Corporation. George Soros has bought all of News Corps assets and changed its name to Liberty International Broadcasting. LIB’s networks have flourished and circle the globe with a series of satellites beaming liberal & U.N. propaganda worldwide.

The New York City faction of F.O.I.L. is lead by Sean Hannity, G. Gordon Liddy and Oliver North, each uniquely endowed with special abilities devised by a bio mechanical engineer affectionately nicknamed “Oscar”. F.O.I.L. is soon to be joined by a young man named Reagan McGee.

Reagan was born on September 11th, 2001. He is the son of a NYC firefighter whose life was spared by attending his son’s birth. Reagan has grown to manhood in an ultra-liberal educational system: being told, not asked, what to think. With personal determination, which alienates him from his contemporaries, he has chosen the path less traveled…the path to the Right.

Two decades of negotiation with the U.N., and America’s administration of 2021 (President Chelsea Clinton and Vice President Michael Moore), has culminated in a truce with fundamentalist Islamic terrorists, or so America is told. The honorable ambassador from Afghanistan has come to NYC to address the U.N., his name is Usama Bin Laden. Ambassador Bin Laden has announced that he plans a public apology for the “misunderstanding” of the events of 9/11. This apology will occur exactly 20 years to the minute the first plane hit the WTC; this will be on the observation deck at the newly renamed “Unity Tower” built on the hollowed grounds where the WTC once stood.

Tomorrow is September 11, 2021, the twentieth anniversary of the horror of 9/11, or as it has become more politically correct to say “the unfortunate events resulting from the uprising of middle-eastern fundamentalist Islam”. Just days before his arrival in NYC, Bin Laden made a brief visit to Iraq, now a nuclear power that is run by the vicious Uday Hussein. In Iraq, Bin Laden received a tactical nuke that is now contained in his private diplomatic briefcase. Bin Laden plans far more than an apology at the Unity Tower.

F.O.I.L. has become aware of Bin Laden’s plot to destroy NYC and has devised a plan to stop him while simultaneously gaining permanent control of LIB’s satellite network. Unfortunately, U.N. Forces have discovered the secret location of the F.O.I.L. Lair. It is a race against the clock to save NYC from a nuclear holocaust and the world from liberal domination. Only with F.O.I.L.’s help, can “Liberality For All” once again become “Liberty For All!”

Wingnut metaphysics

I ran across this remark at an anti-abortion/pro-criminalization blog, and I thought it brushed up against an important point (my emphasis):
Problem is, many GOP leaders act like they don’t have a worldview. Or maybe they do and simply can’t argue for it. (Have you seen Bill Frist’s lovely claim that he’s “pro-life” and believes “that life begins at conception,” but now supports killing embryos for research? Try squaring that gem with pro-life metaphysics.) Either way, true conservatives are not well served by a party that plays politics when it should be playing hardball at the idea level.
It's the part about the "pro-life metaphysics" that caught my attention. This underscores the little mentioned but important fact that the anti-abortion ideology really does rest upon the assumption of a very specific - and, incidentally, very specious - metaphysic.

The heart of the anti-abortion movement is a very simple argument:

1. Killing people is always wrong (and should be illegal)
2. A fetus is a person
3. Abortion kills a fetus
4. Therefore abortion kills a person
5. Therefore abortion is wrong (and should be illegal)

One problem with this argument is that (1) is not exactly true; obviously, it's not always wrong to kill people (justified war, possibly some instances of capital punishment, self-defense, etc.). Much more has to be said to establish that, even if a fetus is a person, killing it is the type of killing that is morally wrong. I still have yet to see a good rejoinder to Judith Jarvis Thomson's argument that even if we grant full personhood to the fetus, abortion is still morally acceptable.

(2) is the claim that is most often the subject of debate, even though it doesn't follow, if the fetus is a person, that abortion is wrong. But even the claim that a fetus is a person has never been adequately established. This is because, as the above remark indicates, it relies on a certain metaphysical view. Namely, anti-choicers tend to believe (a) that there exists a general ontological kind or type or category "person" and (b) that a fetus is a genuine token or instantiation of that kind/type not because it shares certain characteristics with the other members, but because of some (usually vaguely defined) metaphysical property. This is the only way to reasonably believe that this -

The image “http://photos1.blogger.com/img/9/3002/640/intactembryo.jpg” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors.

- is a person, since it obviously demonstrates none of the typical characteristics associated with personhood. It can be a person only by possessing some inner essence of personhood.

Of course, they've given us no reason why we should accept this metaphysic; like most metaphysics, it is basically a mixture of nonsensical and unsupported claims. (I'm tempted to say that if you think that thing above is a person (or a "Microscopic-American"), you just don't understand what the word 'person' means.)

So what the anti-choice movement is trying to do is to impose the normative implications of their pet metaphysical theory (highly influenced by their pet religious ideology) on the rest of society, without giving us any reason to believe that their theory is, you know, true. It is as if I were to decide that teddy bears are actually conscious, highly emotional beings who hate to be left alone, and then trying to pass laws that would make it illegal to neglect your teddy bear. The only difference would be that this form of insanity would be utterly idiosyncratic, while the insanity of believing that a three-celled embryo is a 'person' is one that is shared by a significant segment of society, and endorsed by some of the world's most popular religious institutions, which garners it a level of perceived legitimacy that is wholly unearned.

Bow down before the one you serve

The Rude Pundit, responding to Ass Missile's now-notorious verbal fellating of George W. Bush - "A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile" - makes the following comparison:
It's pathetic, the routine Bush worship of the vast majority of the right. If Allah was worshipped with such fervent praise by prostrate pilgrims at Mecca, he'd say, "Aw, c'mon, guys, you're embarassin' me."

"If you have happy thoughts, then you make happy molecules"

Pretty much everyone on both the left and the right reacted to the news that Arianna Huffington was going to start a celebri-blog with ridicule. Now, a couple months after its launch, the Huffington Post hasn't exactly been the embarrassment some thought it would be, but it hasn't exactly lit up the internet either.

What I don't understand, however, is how Arianna expects the site to be taken seriously when it accords a prominent place to celebrity snake-oil peddler Deepak Chopra? This is the guy who claims that you can tell your body not to age, that you can cure yourself of cancer just by thinking about it, and that meditators can levitate. It really is a disgrace that Arianna sees fit to give this character a voice on her site.

7/29/2005

Can Hillary win?

Jacob Weisberg says no. In a nutshell: she's not 'likable' enough.
One facile argument, often voiced by Hillary-loathers on the right, is that she's too far to the left ... Wrong! An unhedged supporter of the war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton stands at the hawkish, interventionist extreme of her party on foreign policy. Despite her pandering vote against CAFTA, she's a confirmed free-trader and deficit hawk. On the cultural issues that often undermine Democrats, she seeks common ground, sometimes with flat-earth conservatives like Rick Santorum, and has been nattering about the "tragedy" of abortion. Even Hillary's notorious government takeover of health care was misconstrued as an ultra-lib stance. In opting for a mixed, private-public managed-competition plan, the then-first lady was repudiating the single-payer model long favored by paleo-liberals.

...Despite being a shrewdly triangulating centrist on the model of her husband, she remains wildly popular with the party's liberal core: It seems to share the right's erroneous view of her as a closet lefty and draws closer to her with every inane conservative attack. There's no other possible candidate in either party so well poised to claim the center without losing the base.

...Yet Hillary does face a genuine electability issue, one that has little to do with ideology, woman-hating, or her choice of life partner. Plainly put, it's her personality. In her four years in the Senate, Hillary has proven herself to be capable, diligent, formidable, effective, and shrewd. She can make Republican colleagues sound like star-struck teenagers. But she still lacks a key quality that a politician can't achieve through hard work: likability. As hard as she tries, Hillary has little facility for connecting with ordinary folk, for making them feel that she understands, identifies, and is at some level one of them. You may admire and respect her. But it's hard not to find Hillary a bit inhuman. Whatever she may be like in private, her public persona is calculating, clenched, relentless—and a little robotic.

...Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004 with candidates Main Street regarded as elitist and aloof, to a candidate voters related to personally. Hillary isn't as obnoxious as Gore or as off-putting as Kerry. But she's got the same damn problem, and it can't be fixed.
I don't know. Maybe some of Bill's likability could rub off on her. Plus, she's already a bit more "humanized" after the whole Lewinsky thing; people seem to generally feel bad for her for being humiliated like that, though some seem to hold it against her that she didn't leave Bill. (What happened to 'Stand By Your Man'?)

Birth control is harmful to women

Or so says Rick Santorum.

I know this is stating the obvious, but man: what a fucking lunatic that guy is.

I mean, I know he's a 'lunatic', but I think he's really fucking insane.

Wingnuts are weird

Kevin Drum notices that right-wingers are strangely obsessed with Geena Davis.

Dali = big money

Via ArtsJournal:
The Philadelphia Museum of Art's Salvador Dalí exhibit generated $55 million in economic activity in the Philadelphia region, created 830 equivalent full-time jobs, and added more than $4.46 million in increased tax revenue, according to a report released today.

The analysis, done for the museum and its marketing partners by Urban Partners, a Philadelphia firm, says the Dalí exhibit helped other local businesses by:
  • Selling 20,700 hotel room-nights to individuals who came specifically to see the Dalí exhibit. (A room-night is one hotel room occupied for a night.)
  • Motivating about 52,000 visits to other cultural attractions, including 9,800 visits to Independence National Historic Park and 7,000 visits to the Franklin Institute.
  • Drawing more than 370,000 visitors to the museum to see the exhibit, with 85 percent coming from outside the city.

Gore redux?

There's a left-blogosphere mini-swarm around the idea of an Al Gore presidential candidacy in 2008. Atrios, Matt Yglesias, Ezra Klein, and Marshall Wittman all express enthusiasm.

I have very mixed feelings about the prospect of nominating Gore in '08. I certainly don't agree with some of Ezra's reasoning:
Gore, if anything, starts in a better position than Hillary. Already defined as a credible candidate, there's nothing Republicans can do that'll make him look unfit to lead (the country, indeed, already voted for him once). If he can keep his recent speaking style, boring won't apply, at least not so much. His credibility with the left-wing of the party is massive and real. Unlike Hillary, who inspires a fair amount of distrust, Gore's endorsement of Dean and his alliance with MoveOn have turned the ultimate establishment candidate into something of a left-wing insurgent. That should make him a fierce online fundraiser, with small donor rolls that'll dwarf even Dean's, a particularly important strength since that great sucking sound you've been hearing is Hillary hoovering all the early money.
The claims in bold (emphasis mine) strike me as particularly problematic. I don't know how "the left-wing of the party" is being defined here, but what's clear is that Gore is no left-winger. He's sold out progressives on a whole host of issues, including trade, sanctions, 'welfare reform', and, yes, the environment. (Gore talks a good eco-game, but the Gore reality has never matched the Gore rhetoric.) It's true that Gore's post-2001 actions have improved his standing with the left, but as far as convincing progressives that he is one of us, it's anything but a done deal. I'm definitely open to being persuaded, though, and I would be thrilled to see Gore continue with this leftward drift.

And it puzzles me why Klein would think that "there's nothing Republicans can do that'll make him look unfit to lead." We know that the GOP's willingness to run smear campaigns knows no bounds, and we also know (or should) that no candidate is going to be entirely immune to their mudslinging. For some reason, many Democrats seem to be on a quixotic quest to find The Candidate Whom Republicans Cannot Criticize. Such a candidate does not exist; the Democrats could run the Virgin Mary and in a matter of months the Republicans would have a significant portion of the electorate convinced that she was actually the Whore of Babylon.

That said, I think there's something to be said for nominating a candidate who has already run in a general election. There's something of a taboo against doing this, and a loss in a presidential election is seen as the end of one's political career. Though candidates who don't get past the primaries are often given a second chance - Reagan, Bush I, and Gore all ran failed campaigns prior to being nominated - those who win the nomination and then lose in the Fall become instant nonentities. (This may have something to do with the fact that in the first half of the 20th century, every time a general election loser was re-nominated, he lost again (Bryan, Dewey, Stevenson); only Nixon was able to run again successfully.)

Of course, Gore is different, since he didn't really lose in 2000. But besides that, I think that nominating someone who's already run once is something that Democrats should strongly consider. The advantage of this strategy is that before we've seen a candidate compete in a general election, we know very little about their strengths and weaknesses. Few would have predicted that the GOP would tar Gore as a "fibber" based on made-up quotes, and what we thought was Kerry's primary strength, his military service, ended up being neutralized or even turned into a disadvantage.

For whatever reason, establishing a narrative around a candidate or an issue is something that Republicans tend to be very good at and Democrats tend to be very bad at - e.g., Kerry the war hero becomes Kerry the terrorist lover (though they have had some recent successes, most notably with Social Security). What's nice about Gore or Kerry is that the narrative is already established. We know what works and what doesn't, and we can figure out how to emphasize the good and downplay the bad, as opposed to what we think is the good and the bad. For instance, Gore thought he would be hurt by associating himself with Clinton; we now know that this wasn't worth worrying about, and that a bigger problem was that Gore was seen an out of touch, eggheaded weirdo. And we now know that Kerry's military service isn't going to turn 'security' into a winning issue for us, and that Kerry erred in focusing on foreign policy as opposed to the more favorable ground of domestic and economic issues.

Are Gore and Kerry perfect? No. But there is no perfect candidate (not even Bill Clinton, despite what the DLC would have you think), and you don't need one to win; Bush proved that. You just need to have a good handle on how your candidate is perceived, and that's what Democrats haven't had lately. George W. Bush's advisors know what their candidate is, and they know what he isn't. They don't bother trying to turn him into an eloquent speaker or a policy wonk; they ignore what he isn't good at and go with what he is good at. Gore and Kerry have their faults, but at least we know precisely what those faults are, and how they will play out over the course of a campaign.

Of course, every campaign is different, and not every lesson from '04 can be applied to '08. But for now it doesn't seem as if the next election will be radically different; I have to imagine that the GOP will adopt more or less the same strategies (what else do they have?). So come primary season, we'd do well to keep in mind the particular advantages that come from having already run an unsuccessful campaign.


(Cross-posted at Liberal Avenger.)

7/28/2005

Spinoza's God, or: If God is everywhere, is he in the toilet?

Steve Esser looks at the case for pantheism.

Right to privacy

This post at Lawyers, Guns, and Money about Mitt Romney makes a point that's relevant to the Roberts nomination as well:
Democrats should be tying Roe to Griswold and making the broader Republican agenda against reproductive rights clear...
Roberts needs to be grilled on this; he must be asked directly whether or not he believes in a constitutional right to privacy. If he says no, or refuses to answer, Democrats should make it clear that Roberts (as well as the GOP) is a threat not just to legalized abortion but to legalized contraception as well.

The abortion issue might not hit home to some who could never see themselves in such a position. But almost everyone uses some form of birth control, and they should know that if the "strict constructionists" in the GOP had their way, their right to do so would be dependent on the whim of their state senators and representatives.

Debt collectors are assholes

I realize that it's a dirty job but someone's got to do it, and that there probably are some debt collectors who are not assholes. But by and large, these people will threaten, harrass, verbally abuse, and even steal from those they are trying to get money from.

Gilliard
links to an article from the WaPo:
Embarrassing calls at work. Threats of jail and even violence. Improper withdrawals from bank accounts. An increasing number of consumers are complaining of abusive techniques from some companies that are part of a new breed of debt collectors.

They are debt buyers, outfits that acquire unpaid bills from credit card firms and other credit providers for pennies on the dollar and then try to collect. Some of these companies go after bills so old that consumers can no longer be sued for them in court or punished for them on their credit reports.

...Particularly troubling, Smith-Valentine said, are the growing number of cases in which collectors persuade a consumer to pay just a little -- and then use the bank information from that payment to improperly withdraw more funds from the consumer's account.

That was the experience of Sheilah R. Henderson of Lanham, as detailed in a lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for Maryland. According to the suit, a collector threatened to sue her for a bill for a home-security system that had been incurred by Henderson's deceased mother. Although Henderson was not responsible for the debt, she agreed to have money automatically debited from her bank account on the 15th of every month. According to the complaint, the next thing she knew, the collector tried to withdraw money five times in three weeks, with Henderson incurring a returned check charge each time.

Henderson ordered a stop to the wire transfers, but then the collector started calling her at work, threatening to garnish her wages if she didn't pay. Henderson asked the collector to stop calling her at work, her right under federal law, but the collector told her he'd continue to call her there "until she lost her job," the lawsuit said ...

It's not illegal to try to collect this debt -- and collection industry officials say there are a lot of consumers who want to pay, even if they are no longer legally obligated to. However, federal rules make it illegal to sue or even threaten to sue to collect it.

...

CAMCO harassed thousands of consumers to pay old, unenforceable debts or even debts they didn't owe. CAMCO sometimes tried to find people with the same name in the same geographic area and tried to collect the debt from them, the agency alleged. Even if the consumer was not the actual debtor, CAMCO threatened jail, seizure of property or garnishment of wages unless they paid...
This is outrageous. I think a lot of people don't realize what their rights are in such situations. Someday, I'm going to do a post about rights you don't know you have.

Meanwhile, Gilliard's advice regarding debt collectors is apt:
The best thing to do is to not engage them at all. Once you do, they have you.


UPDATE: In the comments, Mindwyrm says not to follow Steve's recommendation, and offers extensive advice of his own.

GAG ME WITH A MOTHER FUCKING SPOON

Ass Missile at Power Line writes:
It must be very strange to be President Bush. A man of extraordinary vision and brilliance approaching to genius, he can't get anyone to notice. He is like a great painter or musician who is ahead of his time, and who unveils one masterpiece after another to a reception that, when not bored, is hostile.
Someone just kill me now.

HT: Donklephant.


UPDATE: By the way, I fully realize that the entire purpose of Ass Missile's remark was to provoke this kind of reaction in liberals. I don't care. The fact that someone can say such a thing and not be immediately shunned by all of civilization ...

Just kill me now.

I hope you're taking notes, Senator Clinton

Leahy won't vote for Roberts if he doesn't support Roe v. Wade:
Senator Patrick Leahy says he won't vote to confirm John Roberts for a seat on the U-S Supreme Court if the appeals court judge does not proclaim his support for the landmark Roe versus Wade abortion ruling.

Leahy said on Vermont Public Radio's "Switchboard" program that he wants Roberts to answer questions about previous Supreme Court decisions when the judge appears before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Leahy says he considers the Roe case settled law and he wants Roberts to talk about whether he would give deference to Supreme Court precedents.

Leahy also says he would vote against Roberts if the senator believes the judge would pursue an "activist" judicial philosophy on the court.

St. Judy

I'm still not buying the Judith-Miller-as-martyr nonsense, no matter how many inane articles the fools at Salon want to write. And if what Arianna says is true, the portrait of Judy Miller the First Amendment hero is even more ridiculous than I thought:
Not everyone in the Times building is on the same page when it comes to Judy Miller. The official story the paper is sticking to is that Miller is a heroic martyr, sacrificing her freedom in the name of journalistic integrity.

But a very different scenario is being floated in the halls. Here it is: It's July 6, 2003, and Joe Wilson's now famous op-ed piece appears in the Times, raising the idea that the Bush administration has "manipulate[d]" and "twisted" intelligence "to exaggerate the Iraqi threat." Miller, who has been pushing this manipulated, twisted, and exaggerated intel in the Times for months, goes ballistic. Someone is using the pages of her own paper to call into question the justification for the war -- and, indirectly, much of her reporting ... So she calls her friends in the intelligence community and asks, Who is this guy? She finds out he's married to a CIA agent. She then passes on the info about Mrs. Wilson to Scooter Libby ... Maybe Miller tells Rove too -- or Libby does. The White House hatchet men turn around and tell Novak and Cooper. The story gets out.

This is why Miller doesn't want to reveal her "source" at the White House -- because she was the source. Sure, she first got the info from someone else ... but, in this scenario, Miller certainly wasn't an innocent writer caught up in the whirl of history. She had a starring role in it. This also explains why Miller never wrote a story about Plame, because her goal wasn't to write a story, but to get out the story that cast doubts on Wilson's motives. Which Novak did.
No way for now of knowing if this is true or not, but it seems in keeping with Miller's character.

By the way, for anyone unfamiliar with Miller and wondering why she inspires such animosity on the left, Arianna summarizes her offenses as well:
...Any discussion of Miller's actions in the Plame-Rove-Libby-Gonzalez-Card scandal must not leave out the key role she played in cheerleading for the invasion of Iraq and in hyping the WMD threat. Re-reading some of her pre-war reporting today, it's hard not to be disgusted by how inaccurate and pumped up it turned out to be. For chapter and verse, check out Slate's Jack Shafer. For the money quote on her mindset, look to her April 2003 appearance on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, where, following up on her blockbuster front page story about an Iraqi scientist and his claims that Iraq had destroyed all its WMD just before the war started, Miller said the scientist was more than a "smoking gun," he was the "silver bullet" in the hunt for WMD. The "silver bullet" later turned out to be another blank -- and the scientist turned out to be a military intelligence official.

Amazingly, however, even as her reporting has been debunked -- and her sources discredited -- Miller has steadfastly refused to apologize for her role in misleading the public in the lead up to the war. Indeed, in an interview with the author of Bush's Brain, James Moore, she, in the words of Moore, "remained righteously indignant, unwilling to accept that she had goofed in the grandest of fashions", telling him: "I was proved fucking right."
Gag me with a spoon.

Also commenting on this story: Armando, Mike the Mad Biologist, Furrow.


UPDATE: Jonah Gelbach says he predicted this scenario weeks ago.

He's lying

From the AP:
July 27,2005 | LINCOLN, Neb. -- Brice Mellen is a whiz at video games such as "Mortal Kombat."

In that regard, the 17-year-old isn't much different from so many others his age.

Except for one thing: He's blind.

And as he easily dispatched foes who took him on recently at a Lincoln gaming center, the affable and smiling Mellen remained humble.

"I can't say that I'm a superpro," he said, working the controller like an extension of his body. "I can be beat."

Those bold enough to challenge him weren't so lucky. One by one, while playing "Soul Caliber 2," their video characters were decapitated, eviscerated and gutted without mercy by Mellen's on-screen alter ego.

Blind since birth when his optic nerve didn't connect because of Leber's disease, Mellen honed his video game skills over the years through patient and not-so-patient playing, memorizing key joystick operations and moves in certain games, asking lots of questions and paying particular attention to audio cues. He worked his way up from games such as "Space Invaders" and "Asteroid," onto the modern combat games.

"I guess I don't know how I do it, really," Mellen said, as he continued playing while facing away from the screen. "It's beyond me."
I'll tell you how you do it: you're not blind. You're lying. You can see just fine.

That's the only plausible explanation.

GOPers like a little misogyny with their spin

One of the GOP's talking points regarding the Plame affair is that she was just a "desk jockey" and not a real covert agent. Go here to read a former CIA officer explaining why this is (big surprise) total bullshit.

At the Liberal Avenger, Pepper, who blogs here, explained an additional aspect of this particular nugget of spin:
The nutbags are also making the "desk jockey" argument because Plame is a woman. They say "desk job," hoping it will trigger the word "secretary." "She was just a little lady with a little desk job making coffee for the big CIA guys who did all the legwork ..." When I hear women making the "desk job" argument, I almost go out of my gourd with rage. It's like blaming Plame for having a desk.

Cool Keith

I've been a huge fan of Keith Olberman's MSNBC show Countdown ever since it began. It is, to my knowledge, the only cable news show that aggressively challenges Bush administration propaganda.

Now, Armando tells us that Countdown is MSNBC's highest rated show, and hopes this will prove to CNN and MSNBC that they don't need to out-Fox the competition in order to succeed.

7/27/2005

Sensible Liberals are completely insane

According to the DLC crowd, the greatest political mistake that progressives made was being right about the Iraq war. Legal Fiction quotes this passage from Timothy Noah:
Not long ago, I spoke with a Democratic moderate about the war in Iraq. He said he considered support for the Iraq war to be a necessary prerequisite to assuming any powerful role in the party. It showed that the person in question was willing to project U.S. force abroad. But wait, I asked. Do you still think the Iraq war was a good idea? After some hemming and hawing, he admitted that he'd rather we hadn't gone in. Then why make support for a mistaken policy a litmus test? Because, he repeated, it shows that the person in question is willing to project U.S. force abroad. I should emphasize that we weren't talking about whether troops should be withdrawn from Iraq, which is an entirely separate and vexing question that speaks to our responsibility in a country whose previous government we destroyed. What this man was saying was that it was better to have been wrong about Iraq than to have been right. That's the prevailing (though not always conscious) consensus in Washington, and it's completely insane.
Well, that's where we're at. Foresight, rationality, intelligence, morality are all vices; violence is the only virtue.

It's good to have goals

Matt at Cerulean Blue outlines what he hopes to accomplish by blogging, including ending racism and resolving the abortion debate, among other things.

Happy birthday to Emma

Emma Goldman

Bitch Ph.D. reminds us that today is the anniversary of the birth of the great Emma Goldman. Dr. B. links to blogger 'Emma Goldman' at War on Error:
Today is the real Emma Goldman's birthday (hence the url for the blog). I've been fascinated by her for many years--she advocated (and, to some extent, practiced) what was then called "free love," i.e., she regarded marriage as a property relationship. She fought for workers' rights, she fought for women's reproductive freedom (especially for the availability of contraception), she was imprisoned and deported and kept on fighting. She was brave, and, apparently a stirring public speaker (hence the fear many authorities had about her). Although she didn't say that if she couldn't dance she didn't want to be part of the revolution, she did defend the necessity for joy as a part of liberation.
Emma Goldman was a wise and brilliant woman. She is one of my few personal heroes, actually. I recommend following the links on Dr. B.'s site to learn more about her.

Attack of the ball

Special election craziness from Crooks and Liars.

R2, do you is fucking

When Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith is translated into Chinese and then back into English:








Much more here. I owe someone a hat tip on this, but I can't remember who ...

Well, that's a new one

From Newsday via Majikthise:
OLATHE, Kan. -- A high school student convicted of battery for vomiting on his Spanish teacher has been ordered to spend the next four months cleaning up after people who throw up in police cars.

Johnson County Magistrate Judge Michael Farley said during the sentencing Tuesday that he considered the boy's actions "an assault upon the dignity of all teachers."

The teen, now 17, vomited on teacher David Young as he turned in his textbook on the last day of classes at Olathe Northwest High School. His attorney, Brian Costello, said the student vomited because he was nervous about his final exams.

But two other students testified that the teen said he threw up intentionally. One girl said he told her in advance that he planned to throw up on Young on the last day of school. The girl wasn't in class when the teen threw up, but she testified that the boy later told her, "You missed it. I did it."

Young said the student, who was failing his class, made no effort to avoid throwing up on him. "I was just sort of stunned," he said.

"A superposition of wingnut and non-wingnut"

John Roberts is in "a state of quantum wingnut indeterminacy."

Fucking with the company

The CIA got to him; you think they can't get to you, Karl?*

Armando thinks that the moral of the Plamegate story might be: "Don't fuck with the company." From the Washington Post:
The special prosecutor in the CIA leak probe has interviewed a wider range of administration officials than was previously known, part of an effort to determine whether anyone broke laws during a White House effort two years ago to discredit allegations that President Bush used faulty intelligence to justify the Iraq war, according to several officials familiar with the case.

...special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.
This is really interesting. Maybe nothing will come of it, but like Armando says, Rove is messing with the big boys now.

Also, Bob Novak is a fucking asshole:
Harlow, the former CIA spokesman, said in an interview yesterday that he testified last year before a grand jury about conversations he had with Novak at least three days before the column was published. He said he warned Novak, in the strongest terms he was permitted to use without revealing classified information, that Wilson's wife had not authorized the mission and that if he did write about it, her name should not be revealed.

Harlow said that after Novak's call, he checked Plame's status and confirmed that she was an undercover operative. He said he called Novak back to repeat that the story Novak had related to him was wrong and that Plame's name should not be used.


* Just kidding, of course. Everyone knows that Kennedy was killed by Sam Giancana because JFK was fucking his girlfriend, and that it was covered up by the FBI because the mafia was blackmailing J. Edgar Hoover with pictures of him in ladies' underwear.

Drinking problem

From the Guardian:
Thirsty art lover suspected of drinking sculpture

The sculpture, a plastic bottle of water full of melted ice from the Antarctic, was intended to be a telling comment on the dangers of global warming.

But one light-fingered, and presumably thirsty, visitor to the exhibition may have missed the point.

Rather than musing on the hazards that will be created if the icecaps melt, the visitor is believed to have drunk the piece.

... They are not sure if the thief knew the water was part of a sculpture and drank it as a joke or if he mistook it for an ordinary bottle of water. Officers also admit it is possible that another member of staff thought the piece was just a discarded bottle and threw it away.

The sculpture was the creation of the American-born artist and writer Wayne Hill. He brought back two litres of melt water from the west Antarctic and designed a bottle to hold it.

A label on the bottle described where the water was from and included the words: "Weapon of Mass Destruction", because of the devastation melting ice caps could create. The piece was displayed in its own room at the literary festival earlier this month. Halfway through the festival it was noticed that it had gone.

Hill said: "It was designed to look like an ordinary object, like an ordinary bottle of water, but it was clearly marked out as an exhibit.

"If you put something in a frame or on a plinth people usually recognise it's a piece of art and treat it with respect."

Hill said he was considering creating another identical piece.

A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall police said: "We are looking at the possibility someone drank the water without knowing it was a piece of art. Or it could have been thrown away by a member of staff who didn't recognise what it was."

7/26/2005

The Ginsburg precedent

Right-wingers insist that Roberts ought to be held to the same standards in his confirmation hearings as Justice Ginsburg was in hers.

"At her 1993 confirmation hearing, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, invoking her ethical obligation as a judge to maintain both the fact and the appearance of impartiality, steadfastly declined to answer any questions about her current views on issues that might come before the Court ... Let us hope the Senate behaves in a similar fashion this time also." (NY Girl)

"In light of all these demands that Roberts be investigated, here's some precedent from Justice Ginsburg's confirmation: 'Justice Ginsburg declined to answer, or gave only generalized answers, to a vast number of the questions she was asked during her confirmation hearings. Despite this, Justice Ginsburg was confirmed by a vote of 96-3, which suggests that the Senate recognized her reasons for caution as valid and appropriate.' " (Abuse of Discretion)

"...the precedent was set with Ginsburg, and it is very unfair to now set a different standard for a Republican nominee. If Democrats think nominees should answer every question, they should have required the same with Ginsburg. Instead, Senator Joe Biden and other Senate Democrats informed Ginsburg that she need not answer any question that she didn't want to." (Thoughts from the Right)

I don't know about the rest of my colleagues on the left, but I'd be happy for the Senate to abide by the 'Ginsburg Precedent.' From Nominationwatch.org via Polianna.com:
Here’s Justice Ginsburg’s response to then-Senator Hank Brown's question about the constitutional underpinnings of the right to choose:

“[Y]ou asked me about my thinking about equal protection versus individual autonomy, and my answer to you is it is both. This is something central to a woman's life, to her dignity. It is a decision that she must make for herself. And when government controls that decision for her, she is being treated as less than a fully adult human responsible for her own choices.”

And here’s her answer to a question by Senator Leahy about whether there’s a constitutional right to privacy:

“There is a constitutional right to privacy which consists I think of at least two distinguishable parts. One is the privacy expressed most vividly in the Fourth Amendment, that is the government shall not break into my home or my office, without a warrant, based on probable cause, the government shall leave me alone. The other is the notion of personal autonomy, the government shall not make my decisions for me, I shall make, as an individual, uninhibited, uncontrolled by my government, the decisions that affect my life's course.”

Indeed, the Judiciary Committee’s report on the Ginsburg nomination concluded that “the committee knows far more about Judge Ginsburg’s views on reproductive rights than it has known about any previous nominee’s. Judge Ginsburg’s record and testimony suggest both a broad commitment to reproductive freedoms and a deep appreciation of the equality and autonomy values underlying them.”
If Roberts states his views on abortion and privacy rights that explicitly, Democrats will be satisfied. So yes, that's all we ask - for the Senate to adopt the same standards for Roberts that it did for Ginsburg.

Stare decisis

Armando excerpts a bit from the Casey v. Planned Parenthood decision:
the fundamental constitutional question resolved by Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, principles of institutional integrity, and the rule of stare decisis require that Roe's essential holding be retained...
and contrasts it with this remark by Alberto Gonzales:
The legal right to abortion is settled for lower courts, but the Supreme Court "is not obliged to follow" the Roe v. Wade precedent, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said Tuesday ... Gonzales said a justice does not have to follow a previous ruling "if you believe it's wrong," a comment suggesting Roberts would not be bound by his past statement that the 1973 decision settled the issue.
Captain Ed comments:
Although Gonzales certainly has his legal analysis correct, perhaps it isn't the best time to debate the virtues and vices of stare decisis. Everyone understands that the Supreme Court can, and often has, reversed its own precedent. During a confirmation fight over a more explicitly originalist nominee, such commentary would not make much difference. In John Roberts, though, it appears that the Bush administration wants to present the least possible profile for partisan attacks while still ensuring a conservative replacement for Sandra Day O'Connor. Gonzales' comments only stir up more suspicion that Roberts and Bush have presented this nomination in a dishonest manner.

However, one cannot fault Gonzales for his analysis. After all, had all Supreme Courts relied solely on stare decisis, we never would have had Brown v. Board of Education, which explicitly rejected the Plessy v. Ferguson precedent of almost seventy years. That's more than double the amount of time that has passed since Roe, showing that reversals of even long-standing precedent can be highly beneficial and desirable. Less desirable for opponents of judicial activism is the example discussed by Power Line in Lawrence v. Texas, which discovered a right to sodomy in the text of the Constitution...

Liberals love both decisions, and both explicitly reject the concept of stare decisis, and over a wide range of time gaps. The notion of requiring a Supreme Court nominee to some blood oath to "settled law" shows more than a little hypocrisy. If pressed, Roberts should point out that the Supreme Court has a long history of poorly-decided cases, such as Dred Scott and Plessy, which succeeding courts had a duty to reconsider free of any slavish devotion to stare decisis.
First of all, the part in bold (emphasis mine) is not correct; the doctrine of stare decisis doesn't say that precedent should always be followed, just that precedent ought to be a strong consideration in any decision.

Also, notice that Captain Ed is hinting at a kind of underhanded strategy here. Gonzales is, as Captain Ed noted, perfectly correct in his analysis. Ed knows full well that Roberts' statement about Roe - that it was "settled law" - doesn't mean that Roberts couldn't or wouldn't overturn it if given the chance. But he doesn't want to make a big deal out of it, and he certainly doesn't want Roberts to say whether or not he would overturn that particular precedent.

Basically, the strategy is to have it both ways, or to try anyway. They can point to the "settled law" comment to squelch concerns that he'd overturn Roe, and then turn around and (wink wink) point out, as Gonzales did, that the Supreme Court isn't bound even by its own precedent. But this sentiment can't be voiced too loudly; it's a fine line they're trying to walk here.

A reduction in bleakness

Josh Buermann notes this somewhat less-than-ebullient passage from New York Review of Books:
The so-called Global War on Terror, or GWOT, as the Bush administration initially labeled America's offensive against vaguely defined dark forces, certainly has achieved some successes —notably in Afghanistan where, for all the current unrest, life is perhaps less bleak than under Taliban rule.
Life is perhaps not as "bleak" - it's still quite bleak, mind you, but not so much as it was before. Maybe. It's also possible that it's just as bleak, or even bleaker. But we're pretty sure it's less bleak.

Perhaps we could commission a poll to ask Afghans how bleak they feel. Something like:


How bleak would you say your life is?

a. It's pretty fuckin' bleak.
b. It's not so much bleak as it is horrific.
c. Life is good!


Then we could compare the results to similar pre-invasion polls, and then we'd find out whether the whole thing was worth it or not.

Liberal media

Time and Newsweek both have profiles of John Roberts this week. Eric Boehlert has a run-down:
Fawning, glowing, congratulatory, adulatory, Sycophantic. Take your pick, the stories are so over the top they have to be read to be believed, with the only real question being should Fred Thompson—Roberts' WH-appointed handler--have received ghostwriting credit? I mean, how could Thompson possibly top Newsweek's almost comical portrait of Roberts as a too-good-to-be-true "centrist" who's "enormously self-confident" but "not arrogant or showy." An "unpretentious" "regular guy" with a "wicket wit" who "mows his own lawn." (Newsweek conveniently omits the name of the high school John "Regular Guy" Roberts attended; La Lumiere.) According to the weekly he's loyal to church, family, school and "most importantly" (wait for it…) "to the law."

The Time piece isn't quite so embarrassing, although editors there think nuggets that Roberts is ambidextrous on the racquet ball court and plays Candyland with his kids qualify as insight. The piece ends with the completely baseless speculation that liberals might come to love Roberts as a Supreme Court justice.

...the two features run 6,390 words, with over two dozen people quoted. Here's how many quotes there are from people even politely questioning the Roberts nomination: 0.

Hillary = toast

So says Steve Gilliard:
Mark my words. She will never make it out of the primaries if she runs.

Hillary Clinton's instincts suck. They are horrible.

Her enemies will ALWAYS paint her as a liberal, regardless of her real stands. Her name is a byword for liberalism and corruption among the right. They will fight her to their last breath. The DLC wants to use the same failed playbook it has always used, run down the middle of the road and lose to the GOP.

At the same time, all this does is alienate liberal supporters who are perplexed by her insane and pointless manuvering. Video games, abortion, all these issues do not help her. They just make her look weak and vaciliating.

John Kerry ran to the left and lost by 110K votes. He didn't hide from being a liberal and he came close enough to winning that Bush was sweating out election day. So what lesson does Clinton take from that: run to the middle. Despite every poll, every focus group that wants a strong, active Democratic party, the Democratic Loser Council wants to stay in the middle.

She keeps this up, she'll be watching John Kerry or John Edwards take the oath of office in 2009.

The white man hearts the donkey?

Ruy Teixeira, best known as the guy who got everybody's hopes up in '04, says that white folks are abandoning the GOP:
Pundits like to point out how dependent the Democrats are on the minority vote and, therefore, how vulnerable the Democrats would be to any weakening in that support. True enough. But it's also true--perhaps even more so--that the GOP is utterly dependent on high levels of support among whites and, therefore quite vulnerable to any weakening of support among these voters.

And weakening of white support for the GOP appears to be precisely what's happening ... Here are some very interesting figures from a recently-released Gallup report, "Black Support for Bush, GOP, Remains Low", based on results of their 2005 and earlier Minority Relations polls.

1. In June of 2004, Bush's approval rating among non-Hispanic whites was 61 percent. This June, it's down to 47 percent, with 48 percent disapproval. In contrast, Bush's approval ratings among blacks is flat-lined at 16 percent in the two polls, while Hispanics haven't really budged either, giving Bush a 40 percent rating in 2004 and a 41 percent rating in 2005.

2. In June of 2004, the GOP enjoyed a 19 point lead in party ID (including leaners) over the Democrats among whites. This June, the Democrats actually have a small 2 point lead in party ID among whites. That's a huge shift. Combined with the Democrats' current 60 point lead in party ID among blacks and 19 point lead among Hispanics, that makes the GOP look quite vulnerable indeed.

After all, without white voters in essentially landslide proportions, the GOP political coalition, as we know it, could not exist. In fact, it wouldn't even be particularly competitive.
Hat tip: The Lion and the Donkey.

"The fundamental decision facing the Democratic Party"

According to David Sirota:
"The fact is, the Democratic Party has to make a choice: is it going to continue to follow the DLC, be a wholly-owned subsidiary of Corporate America, and lose elections for the infinite future?" Sirota said. "Or is it going to go back to its roots of really representing the middle class and standing up for ordinary people's economic rights?"
Yep. A timely question, too, considering that Will Marshall has just written another pointless, idiotic screed exhorting Democrats to be more "patriotic," which Marshall seems to define as pouring even more money into the military budget, as well as Hillary Clinton's recent cozying up to the DLC.

Speaking of Hillary, she seems to think either that she's already got the nomination for '08 wrapped up or that she doesn't need/want the support of progressives. Since the day she arrived in the Senate, she's been doing everything she can to alienate them.

It's also possible that she's not planning on running, I suppose. But Dick Morris assures us that she is.

Bolton = toast

Or so says this Republican blogger (via Mary Shaw via Daou):
John Bolton will never be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations.

Whether he should be or not is no longer the question ... It is now politically impossible. On Friday, individual clouds that had been drifting around for months -- in some cases, years -- finally merged into a media perfect storm. It is now raging. Whether he knows it or not, Bolton has been thrown overboard as far more significant players start working overtime before the ship of state begins taking on water.

...as Josh Marshall points out, as part of her confirmation hearings for a State Department public relations position, Karen Hughes was, by law, obligated to answer a questionnaire, that among other things, asked whether there were any legal proceedings to which she might be a be part of: She admitted that she had testified before Fitzgerald's grand jury. Marshall points out, Bolton answered "no" on the questionnaire -- though, it turns out he also testified before the grand jury on the contents of the Plame memo.

If Bolton intentionally misled the Senate in his questionnaire, he's toast. End of story. But, that's relevant to the big picture.

...The other new wild card? SCOTUS nominee John Roberts.

His existence makes it impossible for the White House to recess appoint Bolton: If that were to occur, with speculation of Bolton possibly deceiving the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on top of the fact that he might be the source that Miller is protecting, Democrats would go ballistic. Even Democrats supporting Roberts might be inclined to filibuster the nomination in protest.

There's no way the administration would let that occur. Many like Bolton and feel that he is important -- but not so important that they would let an appointment that could only last until January 2007 endanger a lifetime appointee to the Supreme Court and while mustering all other necessary resources on a legal-political fight involving the president and vice president's closest aides. Too much to handle all at once.

Say good night, John.

Weird science part 2

Apparently the use of leeches is back in vogue in some quarters of the medical community.

7/25/2005

The oldest dildo


This (via Steve Gilliard) is the world's oldest known dildo:
A sculpted and polished phallus found in a German cave is among the earliest representations of male sexuality ever uncovered, researchers say.

The 20cm-long, 3cm-wide stone object, which is dated to be about 28,000 years old, was buried in the famous Hohle Fels Cave near Ulm in the Swabian Jura.

The prehistoric "tool" was reassembled from 14 fragments of siltstone.

Its life size suggests it may well have been used as a sex aid by its Ice Age makers, scientists report.
Heh heh - "prehistoric tool."


UPDATE: Pandagon's Amanda comments:
I am compelled to pour a 40 on the ground in remberance of my fuck-crazy foremothers. And I think we can look at this stone phallus and reasonably drop the whole notion that the word "pussy" should even be in the same room as the word "coward", much less by synonyms. Any sex that not only can push babies out of our cunts but also shove stone cold fake cocks up ourselves should be regarded as the definition of bravery, not cowardice.

Who's afraid of Community Ownership?

A neat post from David Sirota over at Huffington Post -
It seems that as Washington, D.C. tries to privatize more and more of American life and turn it over to Big Business, there is a quiet but growing battle in the states trying to do exactly the opposite. Call it the Community Ownership movement – and hope that it comes to a town near you.

Here are the basics: we are in an era where the right-wing's free-market-for-everything ideology has been allowed to be turned into reality – and we are starting to see some serious downsides. Think Enron, where Corporate America abused the unregulated market to gouge consumers. Think Social Security privatization, where Wall Street will be allowed to rip off unsuspecting taxpayers for billions. And think Halliburton, where an oil company is being allowed to overcharge America for the privatized work it is doing in Iraq.

But far away from the out-of-touch confines of the Beltway where free market extremism reigns supreme, ordinary Americans are realizing that there's an alternative path, whereby community ownership of certain economic institutions and businesses are a pretty good deal. Instead of allowing Corporate America to reap the windfalls of everything, more and more communities are trying to get a piece of the action – all while making sure the public is adequately served, and not abused.

The highest profile example of this is in municipal broadband, where city governments are developing taxpayer-owned high speed Internet networks. Instead of allowing Verizon or other corporations to control Internet access and rake in all the profits from it, these communities are making Internet access a public utility and sharing in the profits. These communities can make some money at it, while doing the public a service by keeping rates low.

There are other examples. In Montana, a group of cities is making a bid to buy NorthWestern Energy. If successful, Montana taxpayers will actually own their own energy provider, meaning better protection against Enron-style price gouging.

The community ownership movement is moving into some non-traditional areas, too. Take Whitefish, Montana – the community helped build a physical fitness facility, and will help administer the facility and keep rates affordable.

...Clearly, all of this is much different than what we're used to seeing. Usually, government is in the business of handing over huge amounts of our taxpayer money to corporations, so that the corporations can just take all the profits, and charge whatever they want to the customers.

...Make no mistake about it - Corporate America and its bought-off allies in Congress are trying to preserve this traditional privatize-and-giveaway-everything system. They are doing whatever they can to stop the burgeoning Community Ownership movement ... The battle is sure to turn ideological: you can always count on the right-wing to ultimately scream "Socialism" or "Communism" whenever people propose making profits work for an entire community, rather than just a few wealthy fat cats. The only thing Corporate America wants government to own is services that don't make any profits, like policing and firefighting – things that Big Business desperately wants taxpayers to pay for, so that corporations don't have to. These corporate hacks want to socialize everything that costs money, and privatize everything that makes money.

Will the inevitable right-wing red-baiting against the Community Ownership movement work? Good question – but it is a good debate to finally start having. For too long, our side has rolled over and died when it comes to questions about how to manage the free market so that it works for ordinary people. Now it's time to have it out.

People know corporations right now have far too much power and far too much leeway to rip off ordinary citizens - but there is a feeling that that's "just a fact of life." The Community Ownership movement shows it doesn't have to be a fact of life, and that there is an alternative. In other words, this is a debate progressives should welcome, because it is a debate we can win.

Red state blues

Via Shakespeare's Sister, this article from CNN.com tells us what we probably already could have guessed:
The central Appalachian states lead the nation in toothlessness. More than 32 percent of Tennessee residents surveyed last year had lost six or more teeth because of decay or gum disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That number was 38 percent in Kentucky and 43 percent in West Virginia, which holds the distinction of the most toothless state. Kentucky ranked No. 1 in toothlessness in 2003.

...

Organizers of the mobile dental offices said too many people in mountain communities have the mistaken notion that losing teeth is a normal part of growing old. Some do not seem to realize that teeth are intended to last a lifetime.

"People feel like they can do without teeth, or that they can always buy false ones," said David Aker, mountain missions director for the Kentucky Baptist Convention.

Up is down

And the DLC is a grassroots movement.

Hillary Clinton pisses me off

This is outrageous, if true. Let me repeat that caveat: this is outrageous, IF TRUE. I emphasize this because the info comes via ... Drudge ... (just writing his name makes me feel yucky). So it could, of course, be total bullshit. But according to ... the aforementioned non-blogger, Hillary Clinton has already decided to vote to confirm John Roberts.
Senator Hillary Clinton has confided to associates that she intends to vote FOR Bush Supreme Court nominee John Roberts, the DRUDGE REPORT has learned.

Unless some unforeseen development occurs around Roberts, Clinton will throw her support behind confirmation, says a top source.

"Look, we're not thrilled President Bush is in office and gets to make these choices," said a top Hillary source, "but we have to make the best of the situation until the next election!"

With her support of Roberts, Clinton ignores pressure from the reactionary-activist wing of the Democrat party.

"She is simply doing what is right for the country, not MOVEON.ORG," the Clinton insider explained.
What the fuck? His confirmation hearings haven't even started yet, and she's already made up her mind to support him? I assume this holds even if he refuses to say what he thinks about privacy rights ... which means Hillary will be voting to put a justice on the Supreme Court who may well be a decisive factor in depriving women of the right to determine the course of their own reproductive lives.

It would be one thing if she had just said that she wasn't going to support a filibuster or something like that. But if this is true, she's actually going to vote for the guy, regardless of what he has to say at the confirmation hearings.* The Supreme Court battle may not be a winnable one, but that doesn't mean the Democrats should simply forfeit. For the sake of Christ, at least get on record as opposing him; history in the post-Roe world will look more kindly upon you.

Everyone assumes that Hillary is running for president in '08, but she has done nothing but piss off progressives since she got in office, and seemingly deliberately at that. It's the same old triangulation bullshit her husband pulled. This may or may not be a wise strategy for a general election, but she's going to have a tough time in the primaries.

One more time: this information comes via Drudge, so there is a 50% chance that it is total bullshit, in which case obviously everything I've said is rendered moot, at least for the time being.


*Yes, they're leaving an out - viz., "barring unforeseen developments" - but Roberts refusing to answer important questions is hardly unforeseen, yet it should be grounds for a "no" vote.


UPDATE: Hillary's office is saying that she hasn't made up her mind yet.

7/24/2005

Non-poetic injustice

Many of you have probably heard by now that in the wake of the recent Kelo v. New London case, some opponents of the decision are trying to us eminent domain to force Justice Souter to turn over his house. Captain Ed:
Not long ago, after Supreme Court Justice David Souter supported the seizure of private property in the Kelo decision, a collection of activists decided to take Souter at his word and exercise eminent domain on his house in Weare, New Hampshire in order to build a hotel. Freestar Media wanted to bring the foolishness of Kelo to Souter's doorstep -- literally. And despite Souter's popularity among his fellow New Hampshire citizens, they have surprisingly looked at Freestar's efforts with understanding, if not outright support...

The notion of poetic justice rings true among New Hampshire citizens, apparently, which I admit surprises me. I expected this effort, which I called the Mark Twain option, to make its point and fade into obscurity. Granite State citizens instead have expanded it into a second proposal, one that sounds as if Weare residents have decided to make Souter's participation in the diminution of private property into very personal consequences to him and his family. I believe that the Freestar proposal has a better chance of success under Kelo as the commercial value matches better with the details of that case, but Weare shows that it has an open mind about using Kelo for any of several purposes with what may soon be the former property of David Souter.
The problem with all this is that while the use of eminent domain in the Kelo case was not unconstitutional, this use of eminent domain surely would be. This is not the seizure and transfer of private property for the purpose of economic development for the community as a whole; rather, it is an attempt to get revenge for a decision these people didn't agree with.

Take a look at the decision itself. This is Stevens writing:
...the City would no doubt be forbidden from taking petitioners' land for the purpose of conferring a private benefit on a particular private party. See Midkiff, 467 U. S., at 245 ("A purely private taking could not withstand the scrutiny of the public use requirement; it would serve no legitimate purpose of government and would thus be void"); Missouri Pacific R. Co. v. Nebraska, 164 U. S. 403 (1896). Nor would the City be allowed to take property under the mere pretext of a public purpose, when its actual purpose was to bestow a private benefit. The takings before us, however, would be executed pursuant to a "carefully considered" development plan. ... The trial judge and all the members of the Supreme Court of Connecticut agreed that there was no evidence of an illegitimate purpose in this case. Therefore, as was true of the statute challenged in Midkiff, 467 U. S., at 245, the City's development plan was not adopted "to benefit a particular class of identifiable individuals."
This makes it clear that the public use of the property cannot be a mere pretext for the taking. Justice Kennedy, concurring, makes a similar point:
This Court has declared that a taking should be upheld as consistent with the Public Use Clause, U. S. Const., Amdt. 5., as long as it is "rationally related to a conceivable public purpose." ... The determination that a rational-basis standard of review is appropriate does not, however, alter the fact that transfers intended to confer benefits on particular, favored private entities, and with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, are forbidden by the Public Use Clause.

A court applying rational-basis review under the Public Use Clause should strike down a taking that, by a clear showing, is intended to favor a particular private party, with only incidental or pretextual public benefits, just as a court applying rational-basis review under the Equal Protection Clause must strike down a government classification that is clearly intended to injure a particular class of private parties, with only incidental or pretextual public justifications.
Now, the decision doesn't explicitly address a situation where property was being seized just for spite under the pretext of public use. What it does make clear, though, is that just because genuine public use is a legitimate basis for the use of eminent domain, it does not follow that any invocation of eminent domain is legitimate so long as lip service is paid to public use. Deliberately targeting a specific individual like this is not permitted by the Kelo decision (and also would probably be a violation of Souter's right to (substantive) due process).

What the Kelo decision (the full text of which can be found here) permits is the transferring of property from one private entity to another if it is done for a purpose that legitimately falls under the rubric of public use. Poetic justice is not such a purpose.

Weird science

Some researchers at Princeton claim to have shown that people can mentally will machines into action. From Wired News:
For 26 years, strange conversations have been taking place in a basement lab at Princeton University.

No one can hear them, but they can see their apparent effect: balls that go in certain directions on command, water fountains that seem to rise higher with a wish and drums that quicken their beat.

Yet no one hears the conversations because they occur between the minds of experimenters and the machines they will to action.

Researchers at the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research program, or Pear, have been attempting to measure the effect of human consciousness on machines since 1979.

Using random event generators -- computers that spew random output -- they have participants focus their intent on controlling the machines' output. Out of several million trials, they've detected small but "statistically significant" signs that minds may be able to interact with machines. However, researchers are careful not to claim that minds cause an effect or that they know the nature of the communication.

The lab is led by Princeton professor emeritus Robert Jahn, a physicist and former dean of the university's engineering school ... Although the lab is housed at Princeton, the university doesn't support it financially. Instead, the lab has relied on private donors like James S. McDonnell, founder of McDonnell Aircraft (later McDonnell Douglas and now part of Boeing), Laurance Rockefeller and John Fetzer, former owner of the Detroit Tigers baseball team and CEO of Fetzer broadcasting.

Jahn said McDonnell was concerned with how critical electronic systems could be vulnerable to the mindset of human operators under stress.

"McDonnell said he couldn't in good conscience put a young man in the cockpit of an F-18 and assume that all of the highly sophisticated equipment was totally invulnerable to the stress that the pilot would be under in combat or other emergencies," Jahn recalled. "He wanted some research to judge how much he needed to harden that equipment to make it invulnerable to that influence."

Government intelligence, defense and space agencies also have shown interest in the lab's research, which Jahn said he has freely shared.

...

Radin said the phenomenon could be similar to quantum entanglement -- what Einstein referred to as "spooky action at a distance" -- in which two particles separated from each other appear to connect without any apparent form of communication.

...

Radin, who is not affiliated with Pear, dismisses critics who say the group isn't practicing solid science.

"This field has received far more scrutiny and criticism than many other ordinary fields," Radin said. "The people who do this kind of research are well aware that their research has to be done better. The Pear lab has taken the best principles of rigorous science and applied it to extremely difficult questions and come up with some pretty interesting answers."

Jahn thinks that critics err in expecting the phenomena to follow the usual rules of cause and effect. Instead, he thinks they belong in the category of what Carl Jung called "acausal phenomena," which include things like synchronicity.

"They play by more complicated, almost whimsical, elusive rules," Jahn said, "but they play."

Jeffers is skeptical.

"They can't have it both ways -- say (they're) reputable scientists and have claims for a particular effect under controlled conditions, and then when the results don't work out say rigorous scientific methods don't apply," Jeffers said.

But Jahn said that just because scientists can't explain the phenomena yet, doesn't mean they aren't real.

"If these things are real," he said, "I think our society has a right to demand of science that it pay attention to them and come up with some mechanics to deal with them constructively."
I confess I am a bit worried that "government intelligence" is looking into this. Hey - maybe the Plame leak was like a mental telepathy-thing.

Ever notice that when someone wants to give something kooky some credibility, they always make reference to quantum mechanics? Quantum mechanics is weird, but it's real science - and our stuff is weird, so it must be real science too!

An attempt at a debunking can be found here.

It's not who we are, it's what we do

That's the title of a Slate story about the increasingly obvious fact that Islamic terrorists aren't non-rational zombies killing infidels just for the sake of it, but rather that they are acting in response to specific actions by Western powers.
Three new studies, by very different authors taking very different tacks, reach much the same conclusion about modern terrorism: that its practitioners, especially its foot soldiers, are motivated not so much by Islamic fantasies of the caliphate's restoration and the snuffing of freedom, but rather by resistance to foreign occupation of Arab lands.

...The most provocative and widely read study is Robert Pape's book Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. Pape, a military historian and professor at the University of Chicago, catalogued every terrorist suicide bombing from 1983 to 2003—in all, 315 attacks carried out by 462 bombers. He concludes that, except for a couple of dozen random incidents, these bombings were elements of various coordinated campaigns—involving 18 different organizations over a 20-year period—all of which had in common "a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel democracies to withdraw military forces from the terrorists' national homeland."

A narrower, but in some ways more revealing, study was published in March by the Israel-based Global Research in International Affairs Center. The study's author, Reuven Paz, researched the backgrounds of 154 foreign Arabs who had died in Iraq during the previous six months, including 33 who had died in suicide bombings.

Paz's key finding: "The vast majority of Arabs killed in Iraq have never taken part in any terrorist activities prior to their arrival in Iraq."

This is consistent with a study commissioned by the Saudi government and set to be published next month by the conservative Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. Its author, Nawaf Obaid, a consultant in London, researched the backgrounds of about 250 Saudis who went to fight in Iraq ... Obaid had access to official Saudi interrogations; he and his assistant also interviewed many of the fighters' families.

Nearly all these Saudis, Obaid told me in a phone interview, were 16- to 25-year-olds, many from prominent families. They watched the destructive images of the war on Arabic satellite TV, and they read the jihadist Web sites' urgings to go repel the infidel's occupation. ("Abu Ghraib was just a disaster," Obaid said, "a resounding call to these kids.")

President George W. Bush frequently depicts the foreign Arabs in Iraq as comrades of the 9/11 hijackers, enemies of freedom who might be wreaking havoc here if they weren't fighting over there. Yet if the Arabs in Paz's and Obaid's studies are typical, Bush's portrait is off the mark. Their calls to arms may be drenched in Pan-Islamic rhetoric. Those doing the calling—Osama Bin Laden and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi—may have more cataclysmic ambitions. But the young fanatics on the ground, those streaming across the Iraqi border, seem motivated more by the classic goals of national liberation movements.

It's worth noting, in this regard, that Bin Laden himself issued his jihad against all Americans and infidels—which led to the 9/11 attacks—as a response to the presence of U.S. troops on Saudi soil during and after the 1991 Gulf War. Paul Wolfowitz, the architect of the 2003 Iraq war, recognized this. One rationale he gave for invading Baghdad was that for its own security, the United States needed to withdraw from Saudi Arabia but that doing so would destabilize the region if Saddam Hussein were left in power. (He didn't stop to think that the invasion might sink us in a much deeper occupation, which would lure more terrorists still.)

Again, none of this is to condone al-Qaida's atrocities or to mitigate their monstrousness. But it does fit with the theory that the alarmingly widespread fury against the United States these days is directed—as Pape puts it in his book—not so much at who we are but at what we do.
That it is the actions of the US which motivate most of the anti-American sentiment in the world, rather than American "freedoms" or whatever such nonsense they're telling the children today, is beyond dispute at this point. It's time to get serious about terrorism, and that means getting smart about terrorism. It is a very predictable phenomenon, and as such it is easy to avoid. It is also a phenomenon that, while morally reprehensible, tends to emerge in response to real injustices, the wrongness of which is not mitigated by that of the reaction; therefore avoiding terrorism is not only in the interest of the US, Britain and other Western states, the steps necessary for this avoidance are also morally obligatory in their own right.

Full disclosure

Mark Noonan:
As I've said before, I believe that our Democratic assault on Roberts will come in the form of specific Roe questions, which Roberts will refuse to answer - as he must refuse to answer if he's to be an impartial judge - and at that point the Democrats will say that since Roberts is refusing to answer they lack sufficient information to hold a vote...and out will come the filibuster threat (likely disguised as a mere refusal of Democrats to provide the 60 votes necessary for cloture).
Asking Roberts about Roe is an "assault"?

Also, I would think that conservatives too would like to know where he stands on abortion rights.

Give me a real Hummer, dammit

That sounds kind of dirty, doesn't it?

Alas, it refers to the vehicle. From Snopes.com:
In late March 2005, listeners of KBDS in Bakersfield, CA, were told that whoever came up with the correct mileage accumulated that week by the station's two Hummer H2s as they were driven around town would win new Hummers from the station on April 1. Shannon Castillo was one of two listeners who guessed 103.9 miles, the right answer. (KBDS is also known as Play 103.9, so winning the contest was less a matter of figuring out the number of miles traveled by the trucks as it was an exercise in working out the response the radio station wanted to hear.)

Castillo, who had hired a sitter to stay with her two children so that she could be at the station at 6 a.m. to pick up her prize, was chagrined to discover the "Hummers" she and another listener had won were not Hummer H2s, vehicles that cost approximately $60,000 each, but toy trucks. On 21 June 2005, she filed a lawsuit against the station for $60,000.
According to Snopes, there have been other similar lawsuits:
Castillo's case came hard on the heels of another instance of a radio station's being embroiled in a lawsuit over a contest wherein listeners had been led to believe the prize being offered was substantially different from the one awarded. On 25 May 2005, Norreasha Gill was the 10th person to call Hot 102 (WLTO-FM) after "DJ Slick" (real name Jason Hamman) announced the station would be giving "100 Grand" to the tenth caller. While Gill did get her prize, it was not what she expected: instead of $100,000 in cash, she received a 100 Grand brand candy bar from the Lexington, KY, station. Gill is suing Cumulus Media, Inc. for $100,000.

Although the preceding suits might seem to lack legal sufficiency, a waitress at a Hooters restaurant in Panama City, Florida, was able to wring the value of the prize she had thought she'd won out of the company that had pulled what it described as an April Fools' joke. In 2001, 26-year-old Jodee Berry had bested the other servers at her restaurant in a competition to see who could sell the most beer in a month to that eatery's customers, with the winner to receive a new Toyota. When the day came for her to be presented with her prize, Berry was led blindfolded to the restaurant's parking lot to receive her award, but when the blindfold came off she was devastated to learn that the promised jackpot was not a Toyota automobile but rather a toy Yoda, a Star Wars doll. She quit her job and sued Gulf Coast Wings, Inc., the corporate owner of the restaurant, alleging breach of contract and fraudulent misrepresentation. In 2002 the suit was settled for an undisclosed amount of money, which one of the attorneys involved in the case said would enable her to go to the local car dealership and "pick out whatever type of Toyota she wants."

It's not just up to the states

I've written before about a dangerous myth regarding abortion - namely, the belief that in the event of a Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade, the legality of abortion would revert to state legislatures. But the myth refuses to die, even among liberals. It seems to be an assumed premise in an article in The Nation by Katha Pollitt entitled "Is it time for Roe vs. Wade to go away?":
...if the Supreme Court overturned Roe, abortion would not be off the table at all. It would be front and center in 50 state legislatures.

According to "What If Roe Fell: The State-by-State Consequences of Overturning Roe v. Wade," a report published last fall by the Center for Reproductive Rights, abortion rights would be at immediate high risk in 21 states, moderate risk in 9 and "secure" in only 20.

Short of a takeover by the Taliban, it's hard to imagine abortion being banned outright in New York, California or Connecticut. But it is equally hard to imagine liberal abortion laws passing in the Deep South, Utah or South Dakota. And when you consider that Florida, Tennessee, Minnesota and West Virginia are listed as "secure" -- all states that have seen recent anti- choice victories and increasing Republican strength -- you can see how volatile the abortion map could quickly become.

...Even in pro-choice states, they might be able to win spousal notification requirements, bans on "partial birth" abortions or even on all second- trimester procedures except to preserve the mother's life and health.

A national consensus on abortion might or might not develop over time, but any such agreement would not likely be as permissive as Roe. Meanwhile -- and possibly permanently -- fortunate women in anti-choice states would fly to New York or Los Angeles or Chicago, and the less lucky -- the poor, the young, the trapped -- would have dangerous, illegal procedures or unwanted children. It would be a repeat of 1970-73, when women who could get to New York -- but only they -- could have a safe, legal version of the operation that was killing and maiming their poorer sisters back home.

The blatant class and racial unfairness of this disparity, in fact, was one of the arguments that pushed the court to declare abortion a constitutional right. If Roe goes, that same disparity will reappear, relabeled as local democracy. And I'm not persuaded that the right to abortion will ever be the norm in, say, the South, where the religious right is strong, anti-abortion sentiment is high and the political culture is inbred and hostile to women. Even now, there's only one abortion clinic in Mississippi, and the promised pro-choice masses -- the "regular old adult middle-class women" -- have yet to arise.

Legislative control might be more "democratic" -- if you believe that a state senator balancing women's health against a highway for his district represents democracy.
I can't emphasize enough how dangerous this mistaken way of thinking is. I feel cynical saying this, but I have a feeling that if people in blue states believe, erroneously, that overturning Roe would simply leave the abortion issue "up to the states," they won't be overly concerned about its demise, thinking that the effect would only be felt in figuratively far-off states like Alabama and Mississippi (one abortion clinic?!?).

Right now, blanket bans on abortion are out of the question because of Roe. Without Roe, there is nothing preventing Congress from making abortion a crime nationwide. Whether Congress is likely to do this or not is another question - I would argue that they are, given the strong GOP majorities in both houses. But what needs to be understood is that the Republicans in Congress (and their pro-criminalization allies in the Democratic Party) have the power to do so if they wish.

Unavoidable?



From Yahoo News:
A giant column of smoke rises more than 60,000 feet into the air, after the second atomic bomb ever used in warfare explodes over the Japanese port town of Nagasaki, on August 9, 1945. Dropped by the U.S. Army Air Forces B-29 plane 'Bockscar,' the bomb killed more than 70,000 people instantly, with ten thousands dying later from effects of the radioactive fallout. According to AP-Kyodo polling 60 years after World War II ended, Americans are far more likely than the Japanese to expect another world war in their lifetimes. Most people in both countries believe the use of a nuclear weapon first is never justified. Two-thirds of Americans say the dropping of the bombs was unavoidable, while only 20 percent of Japanese felt that way and three-fourths said it wasn't necessary.
This has nothing to do with anything, except the fact that I just saw this picture on Yahoo, but in my opinion the US will always bear the shame of having been the first country to ever use an atomic bomb. 70,000 people killed instantly.

Two-thirds of Americans think it was "unavoidable"?!? Two-thirds of Americans are deluded.

Blogarama - The Blog Directory Sanity is not statistical.